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Science warns: the greatest risk to human health is not coronavirus

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According to the researchers, it causes billions of people to have shorter lives and get sick around the world

Wrapped in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists are clear that it is not the greatest danger to our society. Air pollution, which reduces the life expectancy of every man, woman and child on Earth by nearly two years, is “the greatest risk to human health.”

Researchers at the University of Chicago have developed the Air Quality Life Index, which measures the atmospheric contamination of particles, mainly by burning fossil fuels, and calculates its impact on human health, and its results are catastrophic: air pollution will continue to cause billions of people to have shorter lives and making people sick worldwide.

According to their results, despite the significant reductions in particles in China, it was once one of the most polluted countries in the world, the overall level of air pollution has remained stable over the past two decades.

India and Bangladesh, the hardest hit

It highlights, negatively, the situation in countries like India and Bangladesh, where air pollution is so severe that it could reduce the average life expectancy in some areas by nearly a decade.

In the authors’ own words, the air quality that many humans breathe is a much greater health risk than coronavirus.

“While the threat of coronavirus is serious and deserves all the attention being given, addressing the severity of air pollution with similar vigour would allow billions of people to lead a longer, healthier life,” explains Michael Greenstone, creator of the Air Quality Life Index.

Scientists warn that nearly a quarter of the world’s population lives in four South Asian countries that are among the most polluted: Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. These populations would see their life expectancy reduced by five years on average, having been exposed to pollution levels by 44 per cent higher than they were 20 years ago.

About 89 per cent of the region’s 650 million people live in areas where air pollution exceeds guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Up to a decade, less life

Precisely, the people of Bangladesh, which has the worst air quality on the planet, and about 250 million residents of the northern states of India will lose eight years of average life unless pollution is controlled.

While countries like the United States, Europe and Japan have managed to improve air quality, pollution remains, on average, two years to life expectancy around the world.

Several studies have shown that exposure to air pollution is also a key risk factor for Covid-19, and Greenstone encourages governments to prioritize air quality after the pandemic.

“No vaccine in the arm will alleviate air pollution,” Greenstone says, in statements cited by Science Alert. “The solution lies in a sound public policy.”

No shot in the arm will alleviate air pollution,” Greenstone explained. “The solution lies in robust public policy.”

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